2007 Asian Cup champions Iraq got off to a perfect start against Indonesia in the opening match of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers
|By Khalis Rifhan
Indonesia fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Group B opponents Iraq in their opening 2015 AFC Asian Cup 2015 qualifier, which was played at a neutral venue at the Al-Rashid Stadium, Dubai in UAE on Wednesday night.
Iraq kept the visiting defence busy from the start but fortunately for the Indonesians, goalkeeper Endra Prasetya was in top form to keep the score goalless in the opening stages.
The home side thought they had their break in the 24th minute after Ali Adnan’s freekick blitzed past Endra, but their celebrations were cut short when referee Minoru Tojo disallowed the goal as one of their players was in an offside position.
Iraq continued their dominance in the game after half-time with Endra failing to gather a cross firmly five minutes after the restart, but the hosts could not capitalise.
Their perseverance finally paid off six minutes after the hour mark after a horrible backpass by Handi Ramdan was intercepted by Younis Mahmoud.
The 29-year-old striker did well to shake off his marker and rounded Endra before coolly slotting into the back to the back of the net.
Indonesia almost snatched a point eight minutes from time but luck was not on their side as Vendry Mofu's stinging shot from thirty yards was well palmed away for a corner as Iraq clung on for the three points.
In the other Group C match, Middle East powerhouse Saudi Arabia came away with all three points after registering a 2-1 win over China at the Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam.
Eighteen-year-old wonderkid Fahad Al-Muwallad opened the scoring in the 24th minute, but the visitors leveled five minutes later through Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Zhao Xuri.
Both teams went on the offensive after the break as they sought the elusive winner but it was the Saudis who got the winner 13 minutes from time courtesy of a wonderful strike from Al-Ittihad player Naif Hazazi.